Fitch saw technology, ironically, as the root of the problem with our buildings. He was perceptive about how too great a reliance on technology could undermine its environmental performance. “The sheer ubiquity of equipment for the manipulation of the natural environment,” Fitch wrote, “has led architects, engineers, and planners to behave as if this circumambient environment could be ignored as a factor in design.” He understood that we cannot “tech” our way out of the environmental problems we’ve created.
If we are aware of Fitch at all today, it is most likely because of his work as a preservationist. He joined the faculty of Columbia University’s architecture program in 1954 and a decade later helped found its graduate preservation program. Fitch’s passion for preservation can be seen as a part of his overall worldview of architecture’s relationship with the environment. Before Fitch, the preservation movement focused mostly on architectural landmarks. But Fitch saw entire neighborhoods and urban precincts as worthy of preservation.
From a short item in the AIA’s weekly newsbrief, ‘The Legacy of [James] Fitch’.